Many Hands

Many Hands

A multimedia, multicultural world music arts, dance and performance ensemble.

Working dates: June 1993 - October 1996

Many Hands was a group of 50 creative artists and performers, with six drummers - myself included, at the core.

The six of us met at an African drum class in 1993, and soon began performing shows with our teacher. After a while we decided to form our own band and Many Hands was born. We accomplished a great deal in the three years we were together.

From the very beginning, we realised that the drumming rhythms of the world could be combined in new and original ways, and we created polyrhythmic pattens incorporating influences from as far afield as Africa, South America, South East Asia and Japan. Our fundamental belief was that music, dance, rhythm and the creative arts are a common language shared by people the world over.

We started meeting musicians of every kind, from all over the world, who had made Wellington their home. Mixing melodies, rhythms and instruments from across the globe was a natural development for us, as we explored the possibilities of combining entire musical styles into completely new compositions, in a way that was unique to the band.

From a starting point of drumming together simply because we loved to drum, we found a niche in the music scene which was filled by no-one else. The energy, spirit and performance standards of the band were rated very highly by those who saw us perform, and we were very much aware of the fact that something special happened to us all when we played together. It was a Meant-To-Be kind of a thing.....

Many Hands still exists, now based in Auckland. Two of the core members are still part of the group, which now concentrates on Asian-influenced music.

My roles included:

  • Drummer and percussionist
  • Dancer
  • Singer
  • Producer
  • Publicist

Many Hands' Wellington performances included:

Wellington Summer City, Oriental Parade - February 1994

Our first public performance. I remember being pretty nervous, especially as our show was watched by a bunch of large bikers on huge Harley Davidsons....

Pericles - Victoria University Summer Shakespeare - February 1994

Many Hands were invited to compose and play the accompanying music for the Summer Shakespeare 3-week season of Pericles, rehearsing daily with the cast for 6 weeks prior to opening night. It was an exhausting schedule - I learned to play Taiko drums and wore myself out every night accompanying the storm scene - feeling what can only be described as "magnificent" after playing the huge drums together with my Japanese teacher.

The Dell works its magic again, ensuring that the wind blows up whenever there is a storm on stage. The fighting is brutal and marvellously choreographed. The space is transformed wonderfully, to a ship and various court and street scenes. Lastly, there is some stunning original percussion performed by the group Many Hands.

Ceri Roberts, Salient, February 1994

A finely choreographed battle with staff is but one of the high points accented by the vital presence of Many Hands Percussion Group. Their ancient drums and drumming styles provided a fine backdrop.

Bronwyn Trudgeon, Capital Times, February 1994

Christian Pilditch's music is, however, superb, providing a hauntingly Eastern accompaniment to the play, as well as providing a magnificent tempest.

Susan Budd, Dominion, February 1994

The oriental influence is further strengthened by the impressive array of percussion instruments which are on stage throughout and are used to underscore a great deal of the action. They are particularly effective during the shipwreck scene.

Laurie Atkinson, Evening Post, February 1994

A second major reason for the success of Pericles is Christian  Pilditch, composer and musical director. His music enhances every scene, with some nifty woodwind tunes and a haunting choral "theme tune", and the Many Hands Percussion Group providing a kind of commentary on the action.

Richard Thomson, City Voice, February 1994.

Creatures of the Imagination - July 1994

Many Hands performed at this event in Wellington's Civic Square.

Artslink Expo - July 1995

Many Hands were the first New Zealand band to have an Internet web presence and the first New Zealand band to perform live on the Internet - which we did during our three shows at the Artslink Expo in Wellington's Town Hall. For some reason I got terrible stage-fright - the first and only time - I remember feeling absolutely sick to my stomach in between shows, but this feeling disappeared as soon as I walked on stage - and I ended up chatting away to the audience between songs.

These days everyone's talking about making history in cyberspace via the internet. A month ago, Dave Dobbyn in Auckland was announced as the first musician in Australasia to play live on the net. Wrong! In New Zealand it was Wellington outfit Many Hands down on the waterfront earlier in 1995.

Capital Times, January 1996

World Without Strangers - October 1995

See World Without Strangers page for details.

A Wellington band is using the musical instruments of the world to take its sound to the world. Many Hands has brought together African drums, bagpipes, a Chinese harp, a didgeridoo, Japanese taiko and other instruments for a concert to be recorded then transmitted on the wordwide computer network, Internet.

The concert, at Shed 11 on Friday, is for the band's World Without Strangers video. It will also feature jugglers and acrobats.

Leading up to the concert, performers will be busking in Wellington streets. Banners by local artists, inspired by the music, will be exhibited until November 5 at James Smith's market.

Evening Post, October 1995

Opening of Queen's Wharf - December 1995

Following the success of World Without Strangers, Many Hands were invited to headline the celebrations at the opening of Queen's Wharf in Wellington - to a crowd of well over 1,000. There were about 35 of us on stage in total - it wasn't the biggest stage in the world, so we ended up all squished together trying not to fall off the sides.

Santa Parade - December 1995

Members of Many Hands took part in the Santa Parade through central Wellington. It was absolutely exhausting.

Lotto ad, filmed at Queen Elizabeth Park, Paekakariki - March 1996

I received a phone call one day from a casting agent wanting my help to find a large group of energetic and brightly-dressed percussionists and drummers. Many Hands and all our friends took part in two days' filming for the carnival-themed Lotto ad. We had a blast!

Dear Alison - thanks very, very much to you and the others for your help, you guys were fantastic. Hope you enjoyed it.

Josie, Flying Fish Productions

ONE - March 1996

See ONE page for details.

Many Hands took it upon itself to provide the Fringe with a launching event, and did everything in its power to make it a night to remember. An internet expo next door allowed you to see the world from the Town Hall foyer, while inside Many Hands were also off on a voyage of exploration.

Not so much a group as an ensemble, Many Hands are several percussionists who bring in guests to perform with them. The results are thrilling: the smiles on the musicians' faces showed sheer delight with their creations, and the audience responded enthusiastically.

Scottish pipers, Cook Island drummers, an American oboist performing a Middle Eastern sounding piece and several dancers took their individual turns, and then joined Many Hands' groove to create new sounds. With some clever visuals, the effect was magical.

It was a reasonable but not massive crowd which launched the 1996 Fringe Festival. ONE may not have worked financially, but it certainly worked artistically.

Mike Houlahan, Evening Post, 26/02/96

Wellington Fringe Festival - March 1996

We decided to busk one sunny day in Civic Square - and drew a huge crowd who stayed all afternoon as we drummed and danced for them.

Wrap party for The Frighteners - July 1996

One of the founder members of Many Hands, Bruce McNaught, was a minatures builder on Peter Jackson's movie The Frighteners. Many Hands were invited to perform at the official wrap party in Wellington - complete with giant inflatable gorilla - as at that time Peter was planning that King Kong would be his next movie.

Bledisloe Cup - July 1996

With a group of drummers and circus performers, I produced a show which was performed before the Bledisloe Cup, at Wellington's Athletic Park.

Dalai Lama Benefit Concert - August 1996

Many Hands produced and performed a 30-minute piece for the Dalai Lama Benefit Concert at Circa Theatre in Wellington.

Motivated by a random act of kindness, a diverse range of performers will take part in a benefit concert on August 11 to aid the visit of the Dalai Lama to New Zealand.

Compered by Lee Hatherly, the concert A Celebration of Kindness will feature Douglas Wright, Dame Kate Harcourt, the New Zealand String Quartet, dancers Sally Stopforth and David Backler, experimental musical groups The Bung Notes and Many Hands, the Sings Harry vocal ensemble, and actors Helen Moulder and Prue Langbein.

Inspired by a life dedicated to non-violence, human rights and social change through personal transformation, the performers pay tribute to the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet.

Philippa White, City Voice, August 1996

Dalai Lama visit to Wellington - October 1996

Our Dalai Lama Benefit Concert performance was so successful that we were invited to play for the 2,000 people at the Dalai Lama's visit to Wellington in October of that year - playing rhythms for the audience as they took their seats in the Queen's Wharf Events Centre, prior to the Dalai Lama's speech. It was a great honour for us all, and a fitting conclusion to the band's Wellington incarnation.

By the time we did ONE, which was one of our last performances as a large group, we were a 50-piece ensemble, incorporating everything from bagpipes to Rarotongan log drums, Chinese harp to Native American drums. It was an amazing time....